Westboro Baptist Church, a radical anti-homosexual and anti-Semitic religious group based in Topeka, Kan., is planning to picket several sites in Spokane on Thursday and in Coeur d’Alene on Friday.
In some cases, the educational or religious institutions to be picketed are planning alternate events to divert attention from the Westboro pickets, who have gained national attention by shouting offensive remarks and carrying insulting signs at funerals for victims of violent homophobia and U.S. military war casualties.
The Westboro website says the group plans to picket Thursday at Gonzaga University, Moody Bible College, Whitworth University, Ferris High School and Eastern Washington University, and could be picketing the Jewish synagogue Chavurat HaMashiach that evening. On Friday, the group plans to picket at Coeur d’Alene and Lake City high schools and at North Idaho College.
Here are some details about events planned to counter the Westboro pickets in Spokane:
Gonzaga University student President Patrick Presley and other student leaders have organized a coffeehouse at 8 p.m. tonight at the Crosby Center. Gonzaga students and employees are encouraged to attend a “Sit-in for Justice” at 11 a.m. on Thursday at the St. Ignatius statue on campus, out of sight of the planned Westboro pickets on the northwest corner of the intersection of Spokane Falls Boulevard and Cincinnati. There will be civil rights speeches starting at 11:30 a.m. at the statue during the Gathering for Justice at 11:30 a.m., followed by Mass at 12:20 p.m. at the College Hall Chapel.
However, the Peace and Justice Action League is planning a direct counterprotest of as many as 1,300 people near the pickets.
Moody Bible College: The Peace and Justice Action League believes the Westboro pickets will forgo this venue in order to make more time for other activities, but that hasn’t been able to be confirmed.
Whitworth has scheduled a prayer vigil for tonight at the Seeley Mudd Chapel. There will be another prayer vigil, gospel choir and Communion on Thursday at 11 a.m., followed by a “love run” in the Pine Bowl to raise money for the YMCA and YWCA. President Beck Taylor will be in attendance. Westboro is expected to be on the sidewalk across from the Whitworth main entrance, 300 W Hawthorne Road.
Ferris High School: Apparently there is no planned alternative event. Principal Kevin Foster has written parents to inform them of the Westboro action, and that there may be traffic issues as a result. Otherwise, the school is planning “business as usual.” Westboro pickets are scheduled to be on the southeast corner of 37th and Regal at 2:25 p.m., about the time school lets out for the day.
Eastern Washington University has designated the outdoor basketball courts behind Pearce and Dressler Halls and the front of the parking lot to Roos Field as counterprotest sites. Both are across the street from where Westboro pickets will be on city sidewalks on Washington Street.
Synagogue Chavurat HaMashiach, 2914 S Latawah: Rabbis have requested that there be no counterprotest of Westboro pickets, according to the Peace and Justice Action League. Instead, there will be a community meeting in the synagogue. Many different groups are making plans to attend, reportedly including PJALS, OutSpokane and the Hell’s Angels.
Map: Planned pickets and counterprotests
Planned Westboro pickets are marked with red pins. Counterprotests are marked with blue pins.
View Westboro Baptist Church counterprotests in a larger map